Feeds

€25k for an old Nokia handset?

Scammers pay through the nose for old tech

Website security in corporate America

Scammers are reportedly prepared to pay €25,000 for German Nokia 1100 handsets, on the basis that they can be reprogrammed to intercept SMS messages and thus crack banking security.

The claim comes from Ultrascan, a security association that generally follows up 419 scams and ID theft. Ultrascan tells us it was approached by Dutch police concerned that the price of a second-hand Nokia 1100 was unexpectedly rising. The company subsequently discovered that buyers were interested in a security flaw that makes the German version of the handset worth so much, though the technical background remains obscure.

The supposed exploit is based around codes - mTAN - that are sent to customers over SMS and are unique to each mobile-banking transaction. The premise is that criminals have "thousands" of login details and just lack these single-use codes, so are trying to get hold of Nokia 1100 handsets to intercept them.

The problem with this hypothesis is that the GSM security model is managed by the SIM, which colludes with the network's authentication server to create an encryption key which is made available to the handset. Communications can only be intercepted by getting hold of that key, or breaking the encryption itself, neither of which is easier to do while in possession of a Nokia 1100, German or otherwise.

We put these technical issues to Ultrascan who told us that it "did not investigate [the technical] part", but is hoping to get hold of a 1100 for testing in the next few days to see what is possible.

In the early days of GSM some operators introduced a critical flaw (zeros) into early versions of GSM cryptography, to enable the use of cheaper SIMs, but almost all operators have since upgraded to proper security and 3G networks have open algorithms that are well known to be pretty secure. Some countries, such as Pakistan, aren't permitted to use cryptography so still suffer from SIM-cloning and the like, but such places don't generally offer mobile banking for obvious reasons.

Ultrascan says it'll be in touch when it has more technical details, but for the moment it's beyond us how one phone can intercept calls made to a different SIM, and it seems more likely that one scammer is simply ripping off another with promises of magic handsets. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.